How does Romans 11:33-36 help us understand Ephesians 1:4-6?
Ephesians 1:4-6 and other passages in Scripture teach that God is sovereign in our salvation. This is confusing to some Christians. When they read Ephesians 1:4-6, they immediately reject what the passage teaches. They object to the concept that when God’s will is performed here on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-10), it includes our salvation. They are willing to allow God to be sovereign in every area of life, but not in salvation. Daniel 2:21 and Romans 11:33-36 help us understand God’s role in salvation. God was sovereign in the timing of our birth and He has determined the length of our days (Job 14:5).
God Is Sovereign In Our Salvation
Ephesians 1:4-6 describes God’s sovereign actions in the salvation of every Christian.
. . . just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6 (NASB)
The passage teaches that God chooses people to be saved and He did so before anything was created. This verse also states that when God predestined people to be saved, He planned to adopt them into His family. That act proves God is sovereign. Likewise in our earthly life, children do not select their parents at adoption agencies. Parents make the decision to adopt babies into their families. Adoption into the family of God is the act of a sovereign God. God decides.
An important truth that is often missed is that God is sovereign in everything. God was sovereign in creation. He did not ask the opinion of anyone about how or what to create. He created Adam and did not ask him if he wanted two or three legs. He is sovereign in the rise and fall of nations (Romans 13:1). Proverbs 21:1 says that God can control the heart of kings and influence their decisions. God sovereignly determines into what family and into which country each baby is to be born. He does not ask us how long we would like to live. Job 14:5 says our days are determined. He has established limits and those limits cannot be changed. The Holy Spirit assigned spiritual gifts to Christians and never asks us which gifts we would prefer (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). Many other examples exist in the pages of Scripture of God’s sovereignty. Then some individuals object that God is sovereign in salvation. Why is salvation the exception in the minds of some?
God’s Ways Are Unfathomable
Why does God do what He does? Why does God limit the length of one man’s life to 24 years and another man’s life to 99 years? Only God knows. Why did He raise up the godless King Nebuchadnezzar and allow him to conquer the nation of Israel and then call him “My Servant (Jeremiah 25:9). Why did God choose to use a godless king? Only God knows. The message of Romans 11:33-36 is that we are incapable of completely understanding and knowing God.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NASB)
God’s wisdom and knowledge is superior to our limited knowledge. Therefore, Paul says that God’s judgments are unsearchable and His ways are unfathomable. We cannot understand such a superior being. Therefore, we cannot understand His sovereign acts in salvation either. He chooses who will be saved because if we were left to ourselves, we would never come to Him. Romans 11:33-36 helps us to accept the truths found in Ephesians 1:4-6.
We must remember that Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that faith is a gift from God. Consequently, salvation is a gift.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB)
Acts 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 1:29; 2 Peter 1:1 also tell us that faith is a gift. Therefore when someone believes in Christ, their faith was given to them by God. They believe because faith to believe was given to them as a gift.
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36 (NASB)
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